I love getting a peek inside other people’s’ homes and kitchens, getting a glimpse into how they do things. Don’t you? Comparing your styles and must-haves to those of others, seeing what you have in common and where you differ, and picking up new ideas along the way.
That’s why lately I’ve loved reading about everyone’s kitchen essentials – the top ingredients they just can’t live without. Alicia Silverstone started it with a post about her top 20 ingredients, and others quickly followed suit. It seemed like too much fun not to jump in myself!
Cadry, unable to limit herself to 20, expanded her list to include 25 essentials. I can’t imagine doing just 20 because it was *torture* paring my list down to 25…but I did it. OK, I may have grouped some items, therefore stretching the rules a bit, but what can you do?
While these ingredients are not even close to being the be-all, end-all of our diet, if we run out of one of these, you can bet we are making a beeline for the market to restock.
- Avocados. Cool and smooth, no burger, taco or salad is complete without it. Or smash it with a little salt and pepper for a delicious and easy side dish.
- Beans. Mostly black, pinto, dark red kidney and cannellini, but especially the chickpea. The mighty chickpea shines in everything from hummus to tacos and is amazing on its own as well. Seasoned and roasted or plain-Jane, chickpeas are one of my favorite snacks.
- Cashews. What can’t the cashew do? Besides being a stellar snack, it also does
doublequadruple duty by making the tastiest, creamiest sauces, cheeses, cheesecakes, dressings and more.
- Nuts. Particularly almonds and walnuts. They’re wonderful for snacking, tossing into salads, topping cakes or even blending into sauces.
- Garlic. The best start to just about any recipe.
- Onions. Sautéed or caramelized (or occasionally fried in rings), onions add extra depth and heartiness.
- Sweet Potatoes. In our house, oven-baked sweet potato fries go with everything.
- Bell peppers. These vitamin C-packed multi-colored beauties are wonderful to have around for stir-fries, chilis, dipping and more.
- Carrots. The humble carrot shows up every where in our kitchen — soups, stir-fries, salads, veggie burgers, juices.
- Lemons/lemon juice. Freshens water, brightens dishes and smells amazing.
- Peanut butter. Or any nut butter for that matter. Spread it on sandwiches, smear it on fruit, add it smoothies or sauces or eat it by the spoonful.
- Nutritional yeast. From sauces and soups to popcorn, nutritional yeast is an easy way to add delicious cheesiness to your food (and even if we didn’t eat it ourselves nearly every day, it would still make the list simply because Reagan goes *crazy* over it!).
- Tomatoes. Both fresh and canned (diced, crushed and whole) are handy to have around for sandwiches, soups and easy pasta sauces.
- Leafy greens. You can always find several bunches of kale, spinach and romaine in our fridge. Deep leafy greens make a great base for salads, but do so much more. Lightly sauté and serve with beans and grains, throw them into soups, crisp them up in your oven or in a dehydrator for chips or make beautiful green smoothies.
- Balsamic Vinaigrette. There are so many wonderful dressings available (and to make), but this classic is still our favorite.
- Tofu. We rarely go a week without tofu something or another — maybe it’s a tofu scramble, maybe it’s a smoked tofu sandwich or deliciously dense and chewy baked tofu. It takes on whatever flavor you want to throw at it, making it extremely versatile — and extremely undeserving of the bad rap it gets.
- Olive and canola oils. Use these healthier oils to grease pans when baking and to sauté or roast veggies.
- Soy milk. Plain, unsweetened soy milk is far and away my favorite non-dairy milk, especially for drinking by the glass with fresh-from-the-oven cookies! (Erik prefers the sweetness of almond milk, so I’ll add that to this list, too!).
- Sriracha/hot sauce. I love a lot of heat in my food, but Erik doesn’t. Adding a splash or two of Sriracha or Frank’s hot sauce is an easy way for me to get the heat I like while keeping the rest of the food more palatable for Erik.
- Pasta. Even when schedules go awry, we can always find time to boil pasta (typically whole wheat penne or thin spaghetti) and mix it with marinara or another tomato-based sauce (see #13) and serve it with a side salad.
- Corn tortillas. We eat a lot of tacos around here. They provide robust flavor and satisfaction without a lot of work. Though we mix it up, soft tacos using corn tortillas are one of our favorites!
- Quinoa. Useful anywhere you’d use rice or other grains, quinoa is often featured as a taco or salad filling around here.
- Bananas. There’s no better base for a smoothie, especially when frozen.
- Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base. More flavorful than your average bouillon cube, I frequently rely on Better than Bouillon to easily make rich soups, quinoa, rice and a variety of other foods.
- Spices & Herbs. Our spice cabinet is over flowing, but the spices and herbs in our regular rotation are oregano, turmeric, basil, crushed red pepper flakes, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander, thyme, sage and paprika.
What are your kitchen essentials?